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Wear it Purple Day - creating an LGBTIQA+ inclusive community

Tessa Douglas shines a light on Wear it Purple Day and an LGBTIQA+ inclusive and diverse community

24 August 2020

By Tessa Douglas, Case Manager at the Women's House

Whilst 2020 has been a rollercoaster of a year on many counts, our Case Manager Tessa Douglas has shined a light on something that sits at the core of our work at Sacred Heart Mission every day; promoting ideas and movements that seek to empower and bring love to communities who have suffered at the hands of prejudice and deep social injustice.

Wear it Purple Day is one of these movements. This day was created in response to the multitude of horrific stories of abuse, harassment and the high suicides rates amongst LGBTIQA+ young people as a result of bullying and discrimination.

It all starts with a relationship

‘We are the change,’ is this year’s theme for Wear it Purple Day. What does this mean? From my perspective, the theme means empowerment and progress always start within grassroots movements, growing out of situations of injustice and hardship with a focus on how to create more opportunity and equality for those that come after us.

The progress we at SHM seek on a broader societal level of freedom from discrimination starts with one-one-one interactions based in kindness and understanding. At SHM, it all starts with a relationship. This is why having courageous conversations that celebrate diversity and holding higher standards for the way organisations and businesses treat LGBTIQA+ people, is deeply important to us.

LGBTIQA+ rights have come a long way

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of Wear it Purple Day day. It’s undeniable our society has come a long way since 2010, with legislative protection arriving in 2013 wherein it became unlawful under federal law to discriminate against anyone upon the basis of sexual orientation, intersex status or gender identity. In 2016, the NSW police apologised for the arrests and treatment of LGBTIQA+ people at the 1978 Mardi Gras Parade, and finally marriage equality throughout Australia was reached in 2017.

Despite this beautiful progress, there is still the urgent need for more improvement and continued momentum towards true and greater equality for all LGBTIQA+ people and their families. Many continue to face discrimination, harassment and are disproportionately represented in mental health, suicide and homelessness statistics.

Discrimination can cause immense trauma

At SHM, we work alongside people in our community to find stable housing and to support them in identifying meaningful goals to create a life that feels empowering and true to them. Many of the people we work with have experienced immense trauma throughout their lives, and included within this are often experiences of discrimination and prejudice as young people. We know difficult experiences in childhood and adolescence can flow on to difficulty and instability in adulthood, and unfortunately this is a common experience for many of our clients who are part of the LGBTIQA+ community.

The LGBT Homelessness Research Project, conducted by The University of Melbourne and Swinburne University identified that LGBTIQA+ youth are more than twice as likely to be forced into homelessness than their heterosexual, cis-gendered counterparts. Driving this devastating statistic is predominately family rejection or violence, exacerbated by discrimination on both interpersonal and societal levels. Youth homelessness can easily continue into adult homelessness if someone doesn't have the right support around them.

LGBTIQA+ inclusive service at Sacred Heart Mission

SHM is dedicated to creating an LGBTIQA+ inclusive service, with an internal Working Group focused on continuous improvement and raising awareness of sexual and gender diversity. In 2020, we attended our first Pride March, as a public demonstration of commitment to this goal. Beyond this, workers engage in extra training and development workshops around supporting LGBTIQA+ clients and ensuring our working relationship is based in partnership, inclusion and advocacy.

It has been a highlight of my work at the Women’s House to speak with the women who come into our Engagement Hub about the importance of acceptance and inclusion and see people live openly and proudly in their own skin, and be celebrated by the women around them.

When working one-on-one with a client, I distinctly recall her speaking about the lack of representation and conversation around gender diversity and sexuality when she was younger and the fear that came with living openly as a trans-women; how strong both the fear of others reactions and the risk of violence were, but also how immense the relief is that accompanies speaking and living in the truth of who you are. Seeing the way someone can thrive when they are supported, welcomed and valued has been a hugely rewarding part of this work. Moving towards a world where there is no fear in living in the truth of who you are is what movements like 'Wear it Purple' are seeking, and what our work at SHM is striving for too.

Making support visible on Wear it Purple Day

Wear it Purple Day is a way in which support can be ‘visible’, with members of schools, community organisations, universities and workplaces donning their purple get-up to show LGBTIQA+ youth that they are supported, accepted and that they belong. The movement seeks to promote that everybody has the right to be proud of who they are!

When schools, businesses and organisations come together on Wear It Purple Day to say, “we support you, we love you, we celebrate you for who you are,” - it can have a hugely positive impact on people’s sense of confidence and safety, as well as trust toward services who they may need to connect with. When people feel welcomed and valued, they feel safe.

As such, creating a culture where LGBTIQA+ people don’t feel the need to hide who they are, and feel supported and free to explore and express their sexuality and gender identity is essential for creating empowered, proud young people who go on to live in a way that feels authentic to them.

This year for Wear it Purple Day, we aren't able to come together to wear purple and have in-person conversations about what this day means to us all, so instead we are having a zoom panel discussion with four members of the LGBTIQA+ working group, sharing their experiences and perspectives. We are also hosting a best dressed competition, with the themes of “fun and fabulous” and “best message of support for the non-binary community”.

'Wear it Purple' is a message to all LGBTIQA+ people in our community, and especially young people, that you are worthy of respect and equality and that you are brilliant exactly the way you are!

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Sacred Heart Mission acknowledges the traditional Aboriginal owners of country throughout Victoria and pays respects to them, their culture and their elders past, present and emerging.

 

Sacred Heart Mission has always aimed to be a place that embraces a sexuality and gender diverse community; everyone is welcome at our table and we believe a diverse community is good for everyone.
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